The clean eating movement grew out of a desire for more ingredient transparency, but has evolved into something more complex.
“Now the majority of consumers are paying attention to the label and looking for ingredients that they recognise as healthy or natural,” Laura Gerhard, director of Strategy and Marketing at Blue Diamond Almonds Global Ingredients Division told BakeryandSnacks.
According to Innova Market Insights, 75% of Americans read the ingredient labels of food products, while 91% believe products with recognisable ingredients are healthier.
The movement is expected to keep gaining momentum as consumers strive for a healthier lifestyle, and producers are scrambling to maintain the impetus with innovative options.
Gerhard said there is untapped potential for plant-based protein ingredients in the clean label category.
“Today, a growing global interest in plant-based diets is leading consumers to incorporate more fruits, seeds and nuts into the foods they eat, and creating renewed interest in plant-based ingredients as clean ingredients,” she said.
“According to data from Mintel, 23% of US bakery consumers consider high protein claims important on baked goods, including 25% of millennials and 24% of Gen Xers. According to Mintel, plant-based, high protein baked goods are yielding significantly higher purchase intent than those with animal protein sources (such as milk and eggs).
“Incorporating natural sources of plant-based protein is one way that bakers and food manufacturers can align their product offerings with the clean eating movement and consumer demand for functional and enhanced products.”
Gerhard added almonds stand out as one of the most sought-after clean ingredients.
“Snack and bakery manufacturers must find new ways to deliver on those expectations without the artificial or highly-processed ingredients consumers seek to eliminate from their diets. Almonds and almond ingredients can provide a solution to this challenge, adding great taste and a range of different textures – from crunchy to creamy – to a variety of different applications,” said Gerhard.
“Because Blue Diamond almonds come in so many forms – from sliced, diced, slivered and split, to almond flour, protein powder and butter – product developers are able to leverage almonds in a variety of clean-label applications ranging from snacks and bars to more indulgent items like cakes, pies and cookies,” added Gerhard.
“Additionally, almonds are one of the few superfoods that can appeal to a range of consumer needs and work well across various food categories, all while supporting a simpler label.”
Compared to other tree nuts, almonds contain the most protein (6g) and fibre (4g) per ounce. They are also an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium, and a good source of calcium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorous.
“These nutritional attributes continue to position almonds as a value-added inclusion in a variety of clean label snacks and contribute to a positive health halo that can influence consumer shopping decisions,” she said.
On the bakery side, producers continue to expand their product baskets to appeal to wider audience of label-conscious consumers, as well as those with specific dietary needs, like gluten-free, soy-free, grain-free and vegan.
This has made alternatives like almond flour swoop into the spotlight.
Blue Diamond’s Almond Flour contains the same nutritional properties as whole almonds, is low on the glycaemic index and is naturally gluten-free. It also offers important nutrients that may be missing from many gluten-free products, such as calcium, fibre, iron and protein.
Product developers can also leverage the superfood potential of almonds in other forms, Gerhard told us.
“Blue Diamond Almond Protein Powder, our latest innovation, is a valuable addition for any plant-based or nutritionally-focused product. With a clean taste and a smooth texture, the powder also reduces the need for masking agents in a formulation, making for a simpler label,” she said.
“[It’s] perfectly positioned to take advantage of the trend towards simple, healthy and plant-based recipes and opens up new doors of opportunity for developers of clean-label and nutritionally-focused products.”